On land, it’s easy to see pollution. Look up, look down, look all around (whoa, we might be on to a hit song here). Anyway, pollution is everywhere. You don’t have to look hard or far to find it. But there’s another part of the earth that’s polluted that many don’t see — unless you live on a coast. It’s our oceans. And make no mistake — our oceans don’t pollute themselves — even with all the fish doing their business in them. Instead, reports suggest more than 80 percent of marine pollution comes from land-based activities. Let’s take a look at some of this disgusting stuff.

What a waste

According to experts, toxic waste is the worst type of pollution to life in the sea. Basically, toxic waste is poisonous material dumped in any ocean. It gets in the ocean through landfill leaks, dumps and mines. When toxic waste gets in the ocean, it gets in the fish in the ocean. And that fish you eat today with toxins in it could be a part of your body tomorrow. Toxins in your body can potentially lead to birth defects and damage to the central nervous system. Chemicals such as lead are prevalent in the oceans, and lead can cause damage to the brain, kidneys and reproductive systems of humans. Another toxin in the oceans is medical waste. Exposure to medical waste can potentially result in hepatitis or even AIDS. Viral and bacterial diseases are also possible. Industrial production creates toxic waste that contains heavy metals. When these metals get into water, they are often fatal to marine life.

Cry over this spill

Oil spills are often cited by the general population as a major cause of water pollution and that’s true. What percent of oil in the oceans is caused by spills? Twenty percent? Fifty percent? Eighty percent? Nope, “only” about 12 percent. Three times that amount comes running down our city drains and into our bodies of water.

Cruisin’ for a bruisin’

You’ve seen those pictures of people enjoying an ocean cruise. It looks great from on top of the water. What’s going on in the water is a different story. According to reports, a one-week adventure on a cruise ship creates more than a million gallons of grey water. Grey water is wastewater on board the ship that gets dirty from soap, detergent and other “cleaners.” And where does this water go when it’s dirty and grey? Do the companies that own these ocean liners order them to wait until they get back to port and dispose of this waste in a sanitary fashion? No, that would cost money. So the gunk goes right in the oceans they’re traveling on — and that’s all of them. On the same cruise, another 200,000 gallons of, uh, raw sewage ends up in the ocean.

Gentlemen, shut off your engines (you ladies too) …

By now you’re probably saying, “But I have nothing to do with toxic waste and oil in the ocean and I don’t go on cruises, so I’m not causing these problems.” And you’d be right. But did you know you can poison bodies of water when you drive your car? The exhaust from a driven car results in acid rain. Acid rain mixes with regular rain, and when those rain clouds head over a body of water, bad things happen. Many fish pay the ultimate price — and that doesn’t mean they end up as dinner on your plate. So save a trip or two in the car each week and see if you can walk or bike to your destination.

… and put your garbage where it belongs

Anything that goes in your garbage at home can — if not properly disposed of — end up in our bodies of water. Plastics in particular — think bags and the rings that go around six-packs of beverages — often look delicious to various forms of marine life (hey, these creatures aren’t Einsteins no matter what shows like Flipper may have suggested). Once ingested, the bags block breathing passages in the animals trying to eat them and that results in death. The plastic rings often choke the animals in a slow, agonizing death. According to studies, plastic litter causes the deaths of more than 100,000 marine creatures. And make no mistake. What goes around often comes around. Garbage strewn in the ocean often returns to shore to pollute beaches and other various vacation spots.

Closer to home

So, you might be thinking, what’s the big deal? The closest I’ll get to the ocean is looking at a picture on the Internet. Well, besides eating fish contaminated with toxins as mentioned earlier, water pollution is a problem everywhere. Studies have shown more than 50 percent of groundwater across the world isn’t fit for drinking due to pollution. When groundwater gets polluted, it leads to nasty things like cholera, typhoid and dysentery. Eight million people worldwide die each year from polluted groundwater.

Before you toss that plastic bag, before you start up that car or boat, before you go on that cruise, think of you fine-finned friends. They’ll feel better and you’ll feel better, too.

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